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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
Zen and Now by Dreama Denver with illustrations by Jan Philpot is a heartwarming tale of a Husky-mix dog rescued from an animal shelter just in time to avoid being put to sleep. He finds a forever home with a woman who lives in a big house on a mountaintop. She has rescued other animal companions before, but she is alone now and wants a new friend. The two bond instantly. She names the dog Zen, and his life with his new mom begins. Through one humorous or touching episode or adventure after another, frequently told through Zen’s voice, we watch as deep unconditional love, friendship, and companionship develops between them which lasts into Zen’s old age and beyond. Delightful pencil sketch illustrations depict Zen and his mom adding to the charm of the story. Two recipes for Zen’s favorite treats are included.
Although targeted at young readers, Zen and Now by Dreama Denver is a story that can appeal to readers of all ages. While on the surface it’s a humorous study of the wonderful companionship dogs provide to humans, as well as a call for people to rescue animals and provide them with a loving home, it reaches far deeper. As much as I enjoyed such touches as the inclusion of an autistic child in Zen’s adventures and a dog’s-eye view of the COVID-19 lockdown, I was most touched by the last chapter and the epilogue. The Rainbow Bridge story and what followed had me in tears. This could just as easily convey to a child with a terminally ill friend or family member the concept of life after death gently and beautifully. This is a great book to share as a gift and a story that I won’t forget. As Zen says, “Humans are funny animals.”